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Russian police arrest 60 people over Dagestan airport riot

After an antisemitic crowd stormed an airport in the southern Russian region of Dagestan on Sunday, Russian police detained 60 people.

The Kremlin attributed the event to “external interference” by the west.

 

In Dagestan, a predominantly Muslim region in the North Caucasus Mountains, law enforcement officials announced on Monday that they had identified 150 of the rioters who broke into the airport to look for travellers arriving on an aircraft from Tel Aviv.

Russian police arrest 60 people over Dagestan airport riot

 

The disturbance, which was sparked by allegations that refugees from the Israeli-Hamas conflict were being moved to the area, saw enraged crowds waving Palestinian flags surround the aircraft, and some of them even scaled its wings and roof.

 

According to Russia’s interior ministry, 20 people—including citizens and police officers—were hurt during the protests. Two of them are seriously injured.

 

The governor of Dagestan, Sergei Melikhov, called the violence in Ukraine “a stab in the back to our soldiers who are defending all our country” and attributed it to “our enemies,” including Kyiv.

 

The spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Peskov, stated that it was “obvious” that outside involvement was “largely to blame” for the incident that occurred in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan.

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Peskov told reporters on Monday that Putin will meet with his senior staff later on Monday to address “western attempts to use events in the Middle East to split Russian society.”

 

He claimed that TV footage depicting “the horrors of what is happening in Gaza” was the background against which the riots occurred, and he added, “It’s very easy for our ill-wishers to use these images to exploit the situation, to provoke and anger people.”

 

The disturbance comes at a time when there are worries that tensions over Israel’s war with Hamas, which began as a result of the militant group’s deadly attack on October 7 that, according to Israeli officials, killed over 1,400 people, could escalate throughout the region.

 

In response to Hamas’s strike, Israel bombarded the Gaza Strip and initiated a ground offensive within the enclave. According to Palestinian sources, these measures have resulted in over 8,000 deaths and over 20,000 injuries.

 

In the past few days, there have been a number of pro-Palestinian marches in places throughout the Caucasus, despite Russia’s severe laws against open demonstrations.

 

Calls for a ceasefire in Gaza and implicit support for Palestinian troops have come from Russia, which has always sought neutrality in Israeli-Palestinian affairs.

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While Putin did not denounce Hamas’s attack on Israel during a meeting with religious leaders last week, the Kremlin welcomed members of the Hamas leadership to Russia for discussions, including those regarding Russian citizens held captive by the Gaza-based organisation.

 

A spokesperson for the chief rabbinate of Dagestan stated on Sunday that there were roughly 400 Jewish households in Derbent, the country’s largest city, and roughly the same amount dispersed throughout the territory.

 

In an interview with Podyom, a tiny Russian internet media site, Rabbi Ovadya Isakov was quoted as saying, “The situation in Dagestan is very difficult; the community is very afraid.” “Russia is not a cure-all; pogroms have occurred there as well. It’s unclear where one should run.

 

Social media videos from Sunday showed scores of men on the runway at Makhachkala; some of them were berating an airport employee who swore there were no passengers left aboard the plane.

According to local media coverage, on Saturday night, crowds in Dagestan overran a hotel in an attempt to find Israelis. According to Kommersant, there was also a fire at a Jewish centre that was being built in Nalchik, the capital of the neighbouring Russian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria.

 

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The prime minister’s office in Israel stated, “The state of Israel views grave attempts to harm Israeli citizens and Jews everywhere,” and that the country’s administration was closely monitoring events in Dagestan.

 

“Israel anticipates that Russian law enforcement agencies will protect the well-being of all Israeli citizens and Jews and take decisive action against rioters and against inflammatory statements made against Jews and Israelis,” the statement continued.

With over 50,000 subscribers, the Morning Dagestan Telegram channel appears to have been responsible for some of the rumours.

The station has been linked to Ilya Ponomarev, a former politician from Russia who now resides in Kyiv. Ponomarev is anti-Kremlin and says he organises a far-right Russian militia that fights Moscow in Ukraine. On Sunday, Ponomarev declared that he had not been in charge of the station for almost a year.

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